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Lockport Native Appeals Child Porn Sentence

By Frank Parlato

Deborah Lee Updegrove Tipton

Deborah Lee Updegrove Tipton, 45, a former Lockport resident and a Niagara County Community College and SUNY Brockport graduate who became a teacher in Asheville, N. C.,, is appealing her child pornography sentence on the grounds that it is excessive.

Tipton was sentenced last month to 18 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges related to child pornography. Her appeal was filed on Oct. 2 with the United States Court of Appeals.

The original case against Tipton stemmed from charges that she filmed videos of a nude 12-year-old girl and sent them via the internet to her boyfriend, Chadwick Hamby, of Hendersonville, N. C.,the former principal of the school where Tipton worked.

According to reports, Hamby, who seemed to be drifting from his seven year, adulterous relationship with Tipton, enjoyed sexual fantasies concerning animals and children.

Tipton, desperate to keep Hamby's interest, according to testimony by an FBI special agent, introduced a then 11-year-old child into the couple's chat room talks, and later created pornographic videos of a girl, nude in a shower, that featured her genitals.

According to court records, Tipton sent Hamby a text message saying she had a surprise for him. He requested the videos. She sent the 2-minute and 6-minute videos, and wrote on the subject line of the email, "enjoy."

Hamby admitted viewing the videos at least once before deleting them.

Tipton's husband, and the father of her two daughters, Joel, found the videos in her computer, told his psychiatrist, who reported it to authorities.

Hamby agreed to testify against Tipton to get a "substantial reduction" in his sentence.

U.S. District Court Judge Martin Reidinger, in sentencing the former special education teacher, as well as Hamby, 42, said at the sentencing, "[as a judge], you think you've seen everything. But I have to say this has been a new one for me... I didn't think I'd ever see a case like this."

Hamby pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child pornography. He got 51 months in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release and will be required to register as a sex offender for 15 years. Tipton pleaded guilty to one count of possession and one count of transportation of child pornography. She was sentenced to 216 months in prison and a lifetime of supervised release and must register as a sex offender for 25 years. Her home and computers were seized under federal forfeiture laws.

Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

Throughout the time between her arrest and sentencing, Tipton claimed she was innocent, denied knowledge of the crime, denied criminal intent and denied the content of the videos. At her sentencing, her public defender, Jack Stewart Jr., said his client thought the video was deleted and her ex-husband may have hacked into her computer to find it.

Ondebbiedefensefund.org, a website dedicated to raising money for Tipton's defense, the videos of the naked girl are described as "an innocent act twisted and turned into something ugly," and "the result of a nasty divorce and the desire of her husband to get custody of her two beautiful girls."

"Often, things are not what they seem..., "the website claims. "An objective, unbiased analysis of the facts will indicate Debbie is instead the victim."

Tipton, the website also claims, was "forced to accept the plea bargain and plead guilty - despite being innocent - due to the lack of funds necessary to pay the tens of thousands of dollars a good defense attorney will cost."

Tipton wrote to her school employers, "my arrest came in the middle of a bitter divorce case where my husband...[has] used every tactic ...to prevail in the case, including the use of my children... and unethical and perhaps illegal conduct.”

On Sept. 19,,2012, Tipton accepted a plea agreement where the most serious charge which carries a potential penalty of life in prison,” "production of sexually explicit material involving a minor," was dropped.

Tipton's friends say, she accepted the plea deal under duress.

"We are certain that one of the Debbie’s most powerful motivations to accept a plea deal was to spare her daughters the trauma of testifying in court,” her friend said.

Sentencing appeals may make an argument that critical errors occurred during the sentencing phase resulting in a dramatic increase in the sentence imposed and may be based on such factors as sentence disparities among defendants; that the offense conduct was a on- time behavior not likely to reoccur; that the defendant is over 40 and at little risk of repeating the offense; that the defendant had excellent employment history or has such family circumstances that it might suggest a shorter sentence in the interest of justice.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

OCT 29, 2013